The Inner Game
When I was playing for the NFL, St. Louis Cardinals in 1968, 54 years ago, the team did not have a weight room in our training facility. Syracuse University (we were national champions) and Cardinal coaches and trainers said, “weight lifting is bad for you, it will make you ‘tight’ and you can’t move as well – period”.
When two rookie teammates showed up at our Cardinals training camp, Bob Reynolds, Bowling Green University, and Dan Goich, Cal Berkeley, were college linemen and weight lifters. When I met them at the start of training camp, when we were talking, they asked me, “Dave, where is the weight room? We would like to lift”. “No weight room or weights here," I said.
Fifty-four years later all athletes, from junior high schoolers to the pros, from race car drivers to runners to golfers to football players, strength train, typically using weights. Most high schools have a weight room or a place to ‘lift’ and the equipment and weights.
What has happened during these 50 years? The view that strength training will diminish your performance was just plain wrong the opposite is true, performance is hugely enhanced with strength training. And we know science backs this up.
By analogy, inner game training is to sport training now as strength training was 50 years ago.
The big eight Inner Game approaches and practices are sensory awareness (body feeling awareness), EFT-tapping, breathing, centering, inner witnessing and observing, visualizing, mental rehearsing, consciously shifting awareness, and meditating. These core practices, with many variations, are essential for developing self-awareness and awareness itself. The ‘goal’, is developing a deeper sensibility of being fully present. These big eight inner game practices can dramatically improve athletic performance as they vector into a state of being totally aware and fully present. This is a tall order, yet a thousand-mile trip starts with the first step. And many athletes are taking many steps in this direction.
Remember these keywords that I’m using are action words that mean movement and moving. People like to use the term ‘flowing present’. Many people know and use the word Zone, what they mean is ‘zoning’ meaning the flowing present. Life and reality are a flowing process. Our language chops up reality and our awareness into pieces, names, things, and objects. When athletes and all people are playing and indeed living, there are no objects as such, just processes.
Like inner game practices, and techniques, similar to strength training, inner game training is something you do, an action, a process. Lifting weight and meditating are processes, visualizing is a process, something you do!
Elite athletes routinely know and experience this flowing present awareness as they are moving, because they are elite athletes. And dropping into this state takes many, many hours of practice, many repetitions, and mostly conscious awareness. “Lifting a weight for one time with awareness equals ten times lifting the same weight without
Awareness and being distracted”, says Arnold Schwarzenegger, former world champion bodybuilder and former Governor of California.
Athletes of all stripes know this ‘flowing present‘ state of awareness in their bones and yet it seems to just accidentally happen. Using inner game approaches, practices, and technologies in training and competing, these accidents happen much, much more often.
Now, the big shift in sports training, similar to when strength training came into athletic training 50 years ago, is using inner game and integral approaches by athletes and coaches, bottom line, because it works, performance and enjoyment in sport is deeply enhanced.
These inner game approaches bring us to the flowing present, true enough, and the world opens up to and for us.
This is a good thing!